9. PARKING

There are a number of other specific actions in the public sector which would help to stimulate and attract a flow of private investment capital. One of these is the provision of parking. At the present time, developers of Downtown apartments are required, under the zoning by-law, to provide 75% parking. Office buildings do not require parking under the by-law, and the rationale behind this differentiation is difficult to understand. Perhaps the explanation is simply that it would be prohibitively expensive for most businesses to provide the full amount of parking accommodation required by their customers and employees. Businesses have always been located Downtown and Downtown land is very costly. Apartments on the other hand don't have to be located Downtown; they are not thought of as an integral component of the central area, and if they are built Downtown it is assumed that their occupants should, and in fact would be prepared to pay the cost involved.

A number of very good arguments can be raised against our present practices with respect to Downtown parking. To begin with, there doesn't seem to be any really rational basis for differentiating between commercial parking and residential parking. If in fact it is not necessary to require parking for commercial enterprises, then it is not necessary to require parking for apartment blocks, since in both cases the same elements are involved.

The [XMLmind] serious objection to our present practices, however, is that they are inefficient. They are very wasteful of land and very expensive. The widespread development of surface parking lots Downtown, although “economic” in the very narrowest sense of that term, is socially very costly. It maintains large areas of land in an undeveloped condition and provides no incentives for placing buildings on them. It may be argued that this is so only in a situation where the general level of development activity is low; where there is a high level of demand, surface parking is only a transitional use, and soon is replaced by structures of one kind or another. While there can be no quarrel with the validity of this observation, it is at the same time important to recognize the fact that the prevailing low level of development activity is to a very significant degree a reflection of our attitudes and policies toward the Downtown; changes in those attitudes and policies could produce changes in the utilization of Downtown land which would result in a much more satisfactory provision of parking facilities and a fuller use of the land now devoted to surface parking.

Because Downtown land is expensive, and because parking structures are expensive, business enterprises cannot be expected to acquire land for parking in any greater measure than the absolute minimum which satisfies the by-law requirements or meets their own needs. Where there is no by-law requirement for parking, it must be expected that the demand for parking space generated by the business Downtown will not be met by those businesses. It is expected rather that the bulk of that demand will be met by the commercial parking lots and structures. However, commercial parking is sited only in marginal proximity to the building whose demand they serve (it is a generally accepted standard that the motorist will not walk more than 1,500 feet from the parking lot to his building. In Winnipeg's winter climate, walking even a shorter distance can be an ordeal.) Lots are scattered at random throughout the Downtown, the major locational factors being the cost at which the developer can acquire a piece of property of suitable size (the problems of land assembly, even for a parking site, are formidable) and within easy access of a high concentration of parking users.

It is relatively inconveniently located in terms of access to one's place of business; it uses large amounts of land for a relatively uneconomic purpose; and it intrudes an element of generally acknowledged ugliness into the heart of the city. Even the most cursory observation by the most casual observer must persuade him that our present ways of providing Downtown parking don't make much sense, and that there must be better ways of doing it.

The characteristics of a preferable arrangement are fairly clear, and in broad terms, would include the following principles:

The private developer should not be expected to provide his own parking in each individual development; parking could then be provided comprehensively by a public or quasi-public authority.

Tenants of apartment blocks will, of course, require parking facilities for their cars. This requirement could be satisfied in two ways. On the one hand the developer may provide parking on his own site, as part of his apartment development. In that case, the parking structure would have to be entirely underground leaving the surface free for use as landscaped open space, and designed in such a way as not to jeopardize the development of gardens and similar amenities which might require sub-surface space. On the other hand, the apartment developer (or his tenants) may enter into an agreement with the public authority to rent the required space in the authority's parking facility.

The authority would fix rates and charges for the use of parking facilities under its control and management so that the revenue derived will be sufficient to make the parking facility self-sustaining after providing for all proper expenditures including the amortization of capital and debt charges as the authority thinks proper.

There should be enough parking places available so that every specific destination in the Downtown is adequately served by parking in close proximity.

Parking sites should be developed with multiple uses which means that all parking should be contained in structures which are used for other types of activities in addition to parking; indeed, ideally the main use of such structure should be business or residential with the parking contained as a secondary, even if integral, use.

The pedestrian access from the parking place to the business or residential place should be by means of a weather-protected corridor or passage.

In [XMLmind] to carry these principles into effect, it will require a very considerable degree of public involvement in the acquisition of sites, as well as in the development of the parking structures. Both the Metropolitan Corporation and the City of Winnipeg have the statutory authority to undertake such activities, and accordingly no legal obstacle lies in that direction. The successful implementation of these principles will also require the coordination of these activities within the framework of an overall plan of development for the Downtown. Such a plan is of course the subject of the present report.

Very real benefits can be expected to flow from the implementation of these principles for Downtown parking. Apart from providing a more effective distribution of parking spaces, and a more intensive development of parking sites, the principles outlined above could contribute toward the achievement of these very important and desirable objectives: they could help reduce the cost of renting an apartment, they could help to increase the amount of landscaped open space around apartment blocks, and most important of all, they could increase the economic attractiveness of building apartment blocks Downtown.

The cost of a parking stall in a structure above ground is about $1,800, and below ground is about $2,500. The cost of land for an apartment site is generally regarded by apartment developers as prohibitive if it exceeds $1,000 $1,200 per suite. It is obvious, therefore, that the cost of providing parking is greater than the cost of acquiring the site for an apartment project. If the apartment developer were relieved of the burden of having to provide parking for his tenants even 75% of his tenants the cost of constructing the project would be very substantially reduced, and perhaps the saving could be passed on in the form of a reduction in rent.

Similarly, the on-site land required for parking as part of an apartment development usually is very large, and thereby reduces the area available for open space. If there were no parking requirement that is, if there were an assurance that adequate parking would be made available in a structure off-site, but within easy reach the land thus freed could be developed as landscaped open space. In developments of high density, there is a need for enough open space around the high-rise structures to provide not only visual relief, but sufficient outdoor passive recreation space for the residents.

But of greater basic importance than either of these two results, would be the increase in the attractiveness of the Downtown for apartment development. It can be expected that if the apartment developer is relieved of the burden of having to provide very expensive parking spaces on the very expensive land of the Downtown, but at the same time having an assurance that parking spaces will be available to his tenants out of the general supply of Downtown parking, development of Downtown sites for apartments will become an economically attractive proposition.

A number of other factors may be identified as requiring specific public action, if investment and development in any significant measure is to be attracted into the Downtown. These all have to do with improving the quality of the Downtown environment as a place to live and to work, and include pedestrian weather-protection, the creation of attractive open spaces, and the provision of public recreation facilities.